Archive for Locavor


Good, Clean Food!

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I love having good food for myself and my family! You might say it’s one of my passions! In fact we are a family of ‘foodies’ and have been long before the word was coined. You can hear us having conversations about heirloom tomatoes from my daughters abundant garden, and summer salads of balsamic vinegar, new greens and watermelon. Yum, yum!

Of course, having an urban life, I also go to the grocery store. I love the selections and variety as much as anyone, and sometimes just browse the aisles looking for new food and sales on old favorites. Much to my dismay, this is no longer fun! There are fewer and fewer foods I can feel good about buying now.

In the late 70’s while I had young kids, I read the labels for sugar. I’d read John Lennon’s favorite book “Sugar Blues” and took the hint! With a hyperactive child I cut out red dyes and overly processed foods. Later on I watched the fats and washed the pesticides off the veggies and fruits. Preservatives came under scrutiny next, so these were eliminated from our diet.

I took a hiatus from food label scrutiny after all my kids were out on their own. I felt safe in doing so, sure I now knew what was what in the packaged goods I bought. After all, I had peered at every label more than a dozen times, pretty much memorized the contents. I cooked from raw ingredients most of the time because I like to cook!

Then, in the first decade of this millennium, I noticed I was slowly but surely gaining weight. How could that be? I ate very well and hadn’t put on a pound in years (well maybe a pound or two). So I started looking at labels again and noticed an ingredient I was not that familiar with: high fructose corn sweetener (HFCS). Looking it up, I discovered it was a substance the body can’t use so it immediately converts it to fat. It also had the alarming property of ‘fooling’ the body into thinking it hadn’t eaten, so you wanted more since you were still hungry!

After cutting out all HFCS from my diet, I lost 10 lbs in two weeks. Hummmm….

Today my shopping is more vigilant than ever. I’ve conquered the HFCS problem, however I am now faced with the hidden toxins of GMO’s glaring at me from the shelves. This is now in 80% of all our prepacked foods and can be found in old stand-bys like Boca Burgers (bought by Kraft) and most items that have any corn, soy, canola, or beet sugar in them. The only foods you can be sure do not have GMO’s are organic or say no GMO’s on the label.

What’s the big fuss? It just so happens the genetically modified seeds are specifically designed to be untouched by pesticides and herbicides. Some of them even manufacture their own poisons. This means they can be sprayed with Roundup throughout the growing cycle, right up to harvest. This poison is then taken into their system and is found in the harvested plant. Genetic modification has altered soy beans so much that there are many times more powerful allergens in them than they had before.

So now a peaceful stroll down the aisles of the grocery store is gone. Four GMO’s in this, three GMO’s in that, what’s a woman to do? Well, as has been said before, buy local, seasonal, organic, sustainable, fair-trade foods! You think it costs too much? In the 1940’s food was 25% of your income. Now it’s 7.5%. You get what you pay for! Would you buy the cheapest car on the market just because it was cheap?

And what if you saved $1000.00 in doctor bills and prescriptions just by buying good, clean food? Is that worth it?


The Fruits of August

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I’m establishing myself as an urban locavor (urban forager, frugal ecologist)  and now I remember the joys and fatigue of August. It’s about putting food by for the winter and early spring months when there is almost no local fresh food available. I’m fondly gazing at pints of freshly canned peaches, apricot salsa, jam and jelly of several varieties and feeling both proud and somewhat overwhelmed. Tired also comes to mind since this activity starts when my day normally ends.

I’ve frozen broccoli and green beans – though I’m not finished by any means – and want to find more time to can tomatoes, beets, and make sour kraut. The full branches of the plum tree out front is calling to me and I’ve got permission to pick the wonderful  heirloom peaches a couple of blocks from here. I am waiting somewhat patiently for the elderberries to ripen as well.

This is the month when the garden overflows with all the good things at once. Of course there has been a steady flow of produce since early greens and peas in April. However August is the time of almost overwhelming abundance of tomatoes, peppers, beans, greens, and corn demanding to be put by for the months of  fallow, empty gardens.

Now, that last part is not entirely true since with good planning there will be the second crop of carrots and beets left in the ground with rows of  parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas. Kale and Brussels sprouts taste sweetest and best after the first frost touches them and with a nice heap of straw covering the rows, all can be picked or dug well into December, maybe longer depending on the depth of the frost.

I think back to my childhood when we put enough food by for a family of five to last until the garden produced again in the spring. I’m definitely small potatoes compared to that. Just for starters we canned 150 quarts of tomatoes, and 150 quarts of various fruits (peaches, pears, plums, cherries, applesauce, etc). We rented freezer lockers for all the veggies and meats since our chest freezer couldn’t hold it all. It was a constant daily and nightly ‘meditation’ of picking, shucking, shelling, blanching, pickling and cooking. We used the porch, the summer kitchen and the winter kitchen to maximum capacity for several months, filling every shelf  in the cellar with canned goods and making weekly trips to the freezer lockers down the road.

The smells were amazing, ranging from mouth watering to eye stinging depending on what was cooking! Vinegar and cloves vied with fruit syrups; sour kraut warred with applesauce. In the end the astounding bounty of the harvest surrounded us with such visible abundance that it mitigated the bone-weariness of endless activity. When the first hoar frost crisped and sweetened the kale, the end of the season was finally in sight. With a satisfied sigh of relief, we settled in for the winter.

Now, here in Denver, I want to work my way back to canning, freezing, preserving, drying, and pickling Summer for the Winter. I want to use the local abundance of fruit trees lining the streets, summer farms and small ranches to supply myself so that I again know where my meals come from. I figure it will take a year to get this up and running, so I might as well start now. That’s why I’m staring at my 16 pints of pink and golden peaches with affection and glee. I’m back in the saddle again!